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Alexander P. Saxton

September 10, 2012

 

Alexander P. Saxton

1919-2012

 

Long-time Lone Pine resident Alexander P. Saxton, 93, died at his home on August 20. Mr. Saxton, the son of Eugene and Martha Saxton, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1919. He attended the Friends Seminary (New York City) and Phillips-Exeter (New Hampshire), before enrolling at Harvard University. Subsequently he transferred to the University of Chicago where he earned his Bachelor’s degree. After an interval of years and life experiences, Mr Saxton earned his doctorate in history at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967, at the age of 49.

As a young man, seeking to broaden his knowledge of the world through practical experiences, Mr. Saxton took jobs as a harvest hand, construction laborer, railroad engine wiper and freight brakeman, architectural apprentice, and newspaper assistant editor. During World War II, Mr. Saxton joined the Merchant Marine, as a radio operator, shipping out across the Atlantic and then the Pacific on munitions ships. In this formative period, Saxton wrote novels, including “The Grand Crossing” (1943), “The Great Midland” (1948) and “Bright Web in the Darkness” (1958), which reflected his experiences. Meanwhile, Mr. Saxton committed to advancing the interests of working people through working as a radical labor organizer in the West Coast longshore and carpenters unions in the San Francisco Bay Area. The occasion for family vacations prompted Mr. Saxton, his wife Gertrude “Trudy,” and daughters Christine and Catherine to explore the Eastern Sierra.

Turning yet another corner in his life, in 1962, Mr. Saxton enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, to pursue a doctorate in history. Mrs. Saxton pursued a career as a social worker, while Mr. Saxton completed his graduate degree. With a newly minted doctorate, Mr. Saxton commenced his university teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, before being appointed to the History Department at UCLA in 1968. As a professor, Mr. Saxton completed two major monographs, “The Indispensable Enemy” and “The Rise and Fall of the Great White Republic” along with numerous influential scholarly articles in the 1970s. Stemming from his focus on racism and class conflicts in the nation’s past Mr. Saxton joined with other activists in organizing and overseeing the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. While Mr. Saxton taught history, and his wife “Trudy” taught in the UCLA School of Social Welfare, the family built a house in Lone Pine, which they considered to be home.

Upon retirement and permanent settlement in Lone Pine, Mr. Saxton wrote yet another major interpretive work, “Religion and the Human Prospect,” along with numerous journal articles. He also contributed letters and op-ed pieces to The Inyo Register, the last of which was published posthumously. While residing in Lone Pine, the Saxtons were active supporters of the development of the historical museum at Manzanar Relocation Center, now a Federal Historical Site. Reflecting his enthusiasm for his adopted home, Mr. Saxton developed considerable expertise in hiking, backpacking and mountain climbing, activities he pursued well into his 80s.

Mr. Saxton was predeceased by his wife, Trudy, and daughter, Christine. He is survived by his daughter, Catherine (Santa Cruz), and both a grand- and a great-grandchild.

In Mr. Saxton’s Honor, contributions may be made to the Manzanar Committee, 1566 Curran St., Los Angeles, CA 90026; or the Sierra Club, 85 Second Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105.

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